The Bayhawks' first film session of the year may not be the team's last if they continue to play the way they did against the Rochester Rattlers on Saturday night.
Chesapeake found a rhythm on offense early and often en route to a 12-8 victory before an announced 6,129 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
With the win, the reigning Major League Lacrosse champions improved to 8-5 and clinched a berth in the upcoming playoffs for the fourth straight year, with one regular-season game remaining.
The Bayhawks opened the game with three unanswered goals, and they never trailed against the Rattlers (5-8).
Rochester was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss and a 14-11 win by the Charlotte Hounds over the Hamilton Nationals.
Attackman Drew Westervelt (UMBC, John Carroll) paced the offense with five points (three goals, two assists). Westervelt said the team drew inspiration from a sitdown Friday night with the coaches to review last week's loss to the league-leading Denver Outlaws.
“We really haven't played our best lacrosse all year, and I think we watched a little bit of film and kind of saw that we're being a little lackadaisical with our offense,” Westervelt said. “Tonight, we moved the ball really well and because of that, we got some really nice looks. The defense played well, and hopefully, we can kind of build on this as we move into the playoffs.”
Coach Dave Cottle said the players were analytical in breaking down what was plaguing the offense.
“It wasn't one of those film sessions where you sit there and yell at each other,” he said. “You just say, ‘Hey, do you see this? Are we playing good offense or are we just making a shot?' So they all saw what it looked like. They were shaking their heads and saying, ‘We can be better than this.' They made an effort to be better than this.”
Attackman Ben Rubeor (Loyola Blakefield) finished with four points (one goal, three assists).
Midfielder Matt Abbott had three points (two goals, one assist) and was named the Player of the Game. Midfielder Kyle Dixon and attackman John Grant Jr. each added one goal and two assists.
The Bayhawks opened the game with three goals in 1:42. Westervelt started the scoring when he took an inside feed from Dixon and fired it inside the right post with 11:52 left in the first quarter.
Sixty-two seconds later, Grant Jr. caught an errant pass behind the net and slung a pass to midfielder Matt Mackrides standing in the right alley for an overhand shot past Galloway.
The Bayhawks' final tally in the span came 40 seconds later when Westervelt, at the left wing, passed back to midfielder Michael Kimmel (Johns Hopkins), who dodged past short-stick defensive midfielder Michael Lazore and beat Galloway.
Rochester closed the gap to one with a pair of goals to finish the opening period. Rookie midfielder David Lawson tucked in a shot from point-blank range with 2:41 remaining, and midfielder Kevin Leveille converted a centering feed from rookie midfielder John Ranagan (Johns Hopkins) 52 seconds later.
But that was the closest the Rattlers got as Chesapeake went on another three-goal run to begin the second quarter. The Bayhawks helped themselves defensively by shutting out Rochester for 16:50 between the third and fourth quarters, and goalkeeper Kip Turner made nine saves to outduel John Galloway (six saves).
Cottle said the key was forcing someone other than attackman Ned Crotty to spark the Rattlers offense.
“Crotty had 17 assists, and the rest of the team had 30,” Cottle said. “They have big, athletic middies, and we had to turn them into passers. So we played a little different style than we played all year, and it really caught them by surprise in the first half.”
Crotty led Rochester with four points on two goals (one a two-pointer) and an assist, and Lawson scored twice.
Chesapeake's seeding in the playoffs is still undetermined as it can improve to the No. 2 spot or fall to the No. 4 berth. Next Saturday's regular-season finale against Charlotte (7-6) will be pivotal, but at least the team can breathe easy that it will be making a trip to PPL Park in Chester, Pa., to compete in the MLL semifinals.
“We were definitely motivated to get this last one and get into the playoffs,” Dixon said. “We knew we had to play together and we were preaching that in Wednesday night and Thursday night's practices. We came out and we executed, and that's the kind of product we can have when we do that.”
Hounds qualify for postseason, too
Matt Danowski had a career-high six goals before the end of the third quarter and Ryan Young (Maryland) had a hat trick as the host Charlotte Hounds clinched the final Major League Lacrosse playoff berth with a 14-11 win over the Hamilton Nationals.
Joe Walters (Maryland) had a goal and two assists for the Nationals (9-4), who already had secured a spot in Championship Weekend on Aug. 24-25.
The win by the Hounds (7-6) eliminated the Boston Cannons (5-8), who lost, 16-12, to the last-place Ohio Machine on Saturday afternoon.
Marcus Holman (Gilman) had four points on a goal and three assists, and Jake Bernhardt (Maryland) scored a hat trick for the visiting Machine (2-11).
Behind goals from Holman and Steele Stanwick (Loyola High), Ohio raced out to a 7-2 lead after the first quarter. Stephen Berger (Washington College, Mount St.Joseph) finished with three goals, while Kevin Buchanan (Calvert Hall) had a pair, including a 2-pointer, for the Cannons.